Susan Stewart in The Nation:
Writing in 1930 with Baudelaire and, subsequently, Goethe on his mind, T.S. Eliot took up the question of what it means for a poet to possess “the sense of his own age.” While it may be true, he noted, that Goethe was the representative Enlightenment dilettante, pursuing his scattered scientific and aesthetic “hobbies,” and Baudelaire a “theological innocent,” writing as if the problem of evil had never occurred to anyone before, Eliot nevertheless concluded that “they are both…men with restless, critical, curious minds and the ‘sense of the age’: both men who understood and foresaw a great deal.”
Is there any poet in the postwar period who was driven by a sense of the age—its archaisms and barbarisms, its new looks and new media, its corollary fears and hopes—more intensely than Pier Paolo Pasolini? Born in 1922—the same year as the American poet Jackson MacLow, a year younger than the Italian poets Andrea Zanzotto and Maria Luisa Spaziani, a year older than the French poet Yves Bonnefoy—Pasolini seems of an entirely different era from his long-lived contemporaries. He is fixed in the amber of the 1960s and ’70s—not only because of his early death (murdered on the beach at Ostia on November 2, 1975, at the age of 53), but also because in his poems, films, novels, plays, journalism, criticism, drawings and paintings, he continually took the measure of his time.